Bubblegum documentary screening in Venice, CA

7 DUDLEY CINEMA at SPONTO Gallery, 7 Dudley Ave, Venice, 310-306-7330, Free! 

Come early – seating is limited 

WED., March 14, 7pm preshow: Author Domenic Priore,  Luxuriamusic.com DJ Becky Ebenkamp and anthology editor Kim Cooper screen LA’s rare back-door hit Shrimpenstein! Ostensibly a children’s puppet show (adult satire in disguise), this ’66 KHJ-Channel 9 warper featured booze & LSD jokes. Local fans included the Rat Pack & Rod Serling.

8pm. BUBBLEGUM MUSIC IS THE NAKED TRUTH! (’05, 93min) Based on Kim Cooper and David Smay’s book, Kier-La Janisse’s compilation of prepubescent pop from ’67 to ’72 features rare footage of the 1910 Fruitgum Company, The Archies, Ohio Express, The Sweet, The Bay City Rollers, the Banana Splits, the Wombles & the Jackson 5 Cartoon. It dismantles the worst myths about how bubblegum is produced and identifies the gum tendencies of artists as varied as the Sex Pistols, Abba, the Monkees and the Ramones.

1910 Fruitgum Co. – The Best of CD (Repertoire)

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Not to be confused with the similarly-titled BMG collection for which I wrote the notes in 2001 (see below). If you’re seeking the most of this splendid bubblegum band you’ll need to pick up both discs, as there are six songs on the earlier release not on this mainly singles selection, among them the essential "1910 Cotton Candy Castle." But if only one Fruitgum comp is in your future, it’d be hard to compete with this 28-track behemoth. I wish BMG had been as ambitious with their own vault artists as Germany’s Repertoire label! You’d have to dig through a lot of scuffy vinyl to assemble a comparable analog collection spanning the short, delicious career of this most infantile of semi-imaginary Buddah combos. Kicking off with the schoolyard earworm hits (including "Simon Says," "Indian Giver" and "1-2-3 Red Light"), the disc also spotlights the band (or its studio doppelgangers) in its jazzy, psychedelic and garagey manifestations. The b-sides are highlights (and a rare chance to enjoy band-penned compositions), like the growling bad girl raver "No Good Annie," and the Chinese psych-out "Reflections from the Looking Glass." Equally great are the retarded (in a good way) "Sticky Sticky" and the Link-Wray-in-orbit stylings of "Baby Bret." The comp closes with several scarce Italian-language tracks, from the Fruitgums’ late, barely-noticed Continental phase, including the exquisitely spooky "C’e Qualcosa Che Non Picardo Piu." The booklet includes notes from John Tracy and a selection of colorful 45 sleeves, sheet music covers and oddities.

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 Read Kim Cooper’s notes from The Best of the 1910 Fruitgum Company. 

Andy Kim “How’d We Ever Get This Way/ Rainbow Ride” CD (Collectors Choice)

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Not the Archies, but the Archies team (Jeff Barry and Andy Kim) at the peak of their musical creativity, with a two-fer reish of dreamboat vocalist/co-writer Kim’s first two albums for their indie Steed Records. After nearly a decade as producer and songwriter for hire for some of the most savvy guys in the business, Jeff Barry found himself with the muscle to bring projects to completion on his own. With these two albums, you’ve got the sound of pop’s finest craftsmen delighting in the formal structures of late sixties pop and forging two dozen lovely little moments. “HWEGTW” is more traditional Brill Building romanticism, with Barry’s trademark eclectic arrangements brimming with handclaps, steel drum and hushed, layered vocals. On “Rainbow Ride,” the pair are mildly psychedelicized, offering frenetic, organ-fueled rockers (“Please Be true”). Love You-era Stonesy rambles (“Nobody’s Ever Going Anywhere”) and with the gorgeous “Foundation of My Soul,” a reminder that, no matter what the hippie critics said, in the magical world of Kim and Barry, love, and pop, are not at all disposable.

Remastered Archies & Crazy Elephant CDs

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Repertoire has remastered the bubblicious debut from Riverdale’s finest, and packaged it with the mono 45 versions of "Bang Shang A Lang" (just typing that makes me wanna shimmy) and "Truck Driver." They also have turned that hard-to-find Crazy Elephant album into a shiny silver disk, with nine bonus tracks. It’s pachadyrmistic.

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True Life Adventures of Count Chocula

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Some clever soul on Wikipedia had a little fun with the entry for Count Chocula cereal. We’re archiving it below, just in case the wiki-elves decide it isn’t fit for the long haul.

Count Chocula is a member of the line of monster-themed breakfast cereals produced by General Mills. It contains chocolate-flavoured corn cereal bits and marshmallows. Count Chocula is the cereal’s mascot, whose name is a pun on the vampire Count Dracula. Instead of craving blood like Dracula, Chocula craves Count Chocula breakfast cereal.

In 1971, the first two cereals in the line were introduced, the still-available Count Chocula and Franken Berry. Boo Berry, a pun on blueberry, was released two years later, in 1973, and Fruit Brute came in 1974, only to be discontinued in 1983. General Mills tried replacing Fruit Brute with Yummy Mummy in 1988, but that too had a short shelf life when it was ended in 1993. The latter two are no longer sold in retail stores.

Ernst Choukula was born the third child to Estonian landowers in the late autumn of 1873. His parents, Ivan and Brushken Choukula, were well-established traders of Baltic grain who– by the early twentieth century–had established a monopolistic hold on the export markets of Lithuania, Latvia and southern Finland. A clever child, Ernst advanced quickly through secondary schooling and, at the age of nineteen, was managing one of six Talinn-area farms, along with his father, and older brother, Grinsh. By twenty-four, he appeared in his first "barrelled cereal" endorsement, as the Choukula family debuted "Ernst Choukula’s Golden Wheat Muesli", a packaged mix that was intended for horses, mules, and the hospital ridden. Belarussian immigrant silo-tenders started cutting the product with vodka, creating a crude mush-paste they called "gruhll" or "gruell," and would eat the concoction each morning before work. The trend unwittingly spread, with alcohol being replaced by sheep–and then cow’s–milk, and the demand for the Choukula’s "cereal" reached as far south as Poland and as far west as the northern Jutland province of Denmark. It wasn’t long before the unmistakable image (the original packaging, a three gallon wooden vat which featured a burnt etching of a jubilant, overalled Ernst holding a large dog and grinning broadly) made a pop-cultural splash throughout the entirety of Europe and northern Africa. In fact, Tunisia’s "Carthagian Sand Crunch" was seen as the first imitation of the Choukula form; the aforementioned product was presented in broad leathern bags with the woven insignia of a nude tribesman holding a sword and a bunched stalk of oats. Sadly, this would neither be the first nor the tamest appropriation of Ernst’s iconic visage. Meanwhile, in the "textile paradise"-region of Schenectady / Elmira New York, General Peter Mills–a celebrated turret gunner in McKinley’s navy–was first beginning to mine America’s seemingly insatiable desire to consume food before high noon. The trend, initially known in the United States as "brekkfest" had first appeared in 1903, with Dominic Eggo’s invention of "wassled" or "waffled" bread, and really picked up steam throughout the teens and twenties, when eating in the morning was no longer deemed a sin by the Anglo-Catholic church. News of Choukula’s economic domination across the Atlantic fascinated and troubled Mills, who was eager for similar success. In 1927, while vacationing the Iberian peninsula, he first encountered three discarded barrels of "Duke Choukula’s Animal Supplement" (the name and design of the product had undergone several makeovers throughout the previous seven years, the most recent of which featured Ernst dressed in a cape and tiara, reflecting his family’s oft-disputed ties to Eurasian royalty). Immediately intrigued, Mills brought one with him on his boat ride back to the States, and spent the twenty-three day trip obsessively studying the packaging. In the spring of 1929, General Mills’ "Prince Chocula’s Morning Digestive" was picked up for distribution in three dozen pharmacies, grocery stands and agrarian carts throughout New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and northern Maryland. The public response was confused and angered at the recipe’s savory, clove-like sting; apparently a confusion over the name led many to believe the breakfast was made from chocolate, and by 1931 the formula had been updated to reflect the nation’s collective sweet tooth. In 1932, boxes were labeled simply "Count Chocula’s Chocolate Food" and Peter Mills was named Life Magazine’s "Humanitarian of the Year, 1933". Ernst Chocula died in a Ukrainian cabin, penniless and alone, having descended into a type of brain-madness.


Sprawling Best of the 1910 Fruitgum Co. Released Next Week

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Repertoire has compiled a best-of that goes beyond the usual twenty-two minute selection from the annals of the Fruitgum Co. We haven’t heard the remastered versions of the tunes yet, but if you’ve been struggling to find some of these oddities, now’s the time.

Tracklist: 1. Simon Says 2. May I Take A Giant Step (Into Your Heart) 3. 1-2-3 Red Light 4. Goody Goody Gumdrops 5. Indian Giver 6. Special Delivery 7. Train 8. When We Get Married 9. Go Away 10. Lawdy Lawdy 11. Reflections From The Looking Glass 12. (Poor Old) Mr Jensen 13. Sticky Sticky 14. Candy Kisses 15. Liza 16. No Good Annie 17. Eternal Light 18. Baby Bret 19. Track 20. Clock 21. Soul Struttin’ 22. Hook, Line & Sniker 23. Game Of Love 24. Song Song 25. Book 26. Semplicissimo 27. C’e Qualcosa Che Non Ricordo Piu 28. Hip Hip Hip Urrah! (1-2-3 Red Light)

Press Release: Andy Kim two-fer reissues due in July

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This press release just in:

Four albums by last of the Brill Building artists (How’d We Ever Get This Way/Rainbow Ride and Baby I Love You/Andy Kim) to be reissued on two CDs on July 18

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Andy Kim has sold millions of records, but most people are under the impression he sold mere hundreds of thousands. The reason is simple. Although Kim had many hits under his own name (“How’d We Ever Get This Way,” “Baby I Love You,” “Rock Me Gently” and “So Good Together,” to name a few), he co-wrote (with Jeff Barry) the Archies’ mega-hit “Sugar Sugar,” which sold 6 million 45 RPM units. Ron Dante provided the magic voice. Yet the fans never saw the scaffolding behind the scenes. The Archies, after all, consisted of Archie, Jughead, Reggie, Betty and Veronica, right?
Collectors’ Choice Music on July 18 will re-release four Andy Kim LPs via two loaded CDs: How’d We Ever Get This Way mates with Rainbow Ride to document Kim’s 1968-69 output, while Baby I Love You is conjoined with the eponymous Andy Kim. All albums except for Andy Kim (which was on Uni Records) were originally released on Steed Records, which was founded in 1967 by songwriter/producer Barry as a division of Jeff Barry Enterprises. Distribution was through Dot Records. It was another era, to be sure.
Andy Kim, the man with the magic pipes, was born Andre Youakim in Montreal and at age 16 arrived in New York, where he played a song for his Brill Building hero Jeff Barry. Thus began one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, which in turn led to Kim’s hit singles and albums for Steed, which are widely regarded as the last, glorious gasp of the Brill Building sound.

The Partridge Family + The Manson Family = The Poppy Family

by Kim Cooper

The sixties ended with bloodbaths at Cielo Drive and Altamont, and as 1970 slouched into view there was no reason to think that the giddy bubblegum genre had one last great wad in its maw. But up in the wilds of Vancouver, B.C., a young married couple was forging a new style of bubblepop, suffused with a blast of stale dark air that was utterly redolent of the times.
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From our present vantage it seems obvious that all that folk-rock-protest crap was just an entertaining shuck, and the only songwriters who were really tapped into the esprit des temps were Boyce and Hart, Bo Gentry, Kasenetz and Katz, Neil Diamond and the like. Bubblegum hid its insight into politics and human behavior in a midst of infantile fancy, but in the end it’s songs like the Archies’ “Hot Dog” and “Love Beads and Meditation” by the Lemon Pipers (that’s the one that goes “the tangled mass of membranes that used to be me/ is a memory”) that continue to speak to the youth of today, while few still breathe who can tell Zager from Evans. It’s no accident that this music was only appreciated by eight year olds when it came out, because little kids had tons more on the ball than their boo-huffin’ older siblings, not to mention the critics, who were too busy praising Dylan’s new direction(s) to notice all the great music on Saturday morning TV. But I digress.

Terry and Susan Jacks recorded two albums for London Records as the Poppy Family before Terry’s lumberjack obsessions made Susan decide to hit to road running while she still had her health and looks. And despite her indisputable talent (imagine a Karen Carpenter who really meant it), it must have been her looks that got Mrs. Jacks noticed, especially when contrasted with the weirdos in her band. Terry resembled a misguided genetic experiment fusing a komodo dragon with one of the Campbell’s Soup kids, and had been a walking bad hair day for years. The session hacks who masqueraded as band members looked stranger still. Satwant Singh could have been the model for Apu, the Kwik-Mart manager on “The Simpsons,” right up to the turban that added six inches to his height. And Craig Mccaw seems to have been a stoned lumberjack like Terry, although his coke-bottle glasses and white boy ‘fro gave him the look of a White Panther sympathizer. Against this nebbishy cross-section, Susan stood out like a goddess. She had a compact, curvy figure that she liked to drape in skintight red jumpsuits, nicely offsetting the bubble of platinum hair that grazed her shoulders. With her sexy smile and feline eyes, she was your basic Vegas-style knockout. She must have caused quite a stir up there in the woods, and it was only a matter of time before she caught the attention of lecherous label execs throughout the lower 48.

The debut album, Which Way You Goin’, Billy?, is a haunting brace of menacing melodies, featuring eleven atmospheric classics and one hilariously misguided dog. From the opening number, the broken-hearted bus-ride opus “That’s Where I Went Wrong,” there’s a dizzying air of mystery and hopelessness, with Terry’s impressive studio work adding to the general sense of doom. Terry’s songs have a knack for never resolving the troubled situations they describe, trailing off into washes of eerie noise instead. Despite the brilliance and difficulty of the album, the title song (a pathetic tale of abandoned womanhood) was a big hit

The Sopwith Camel

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The Sopwith Camel
by Kim Cooper

Although they recorded for Kama Sutra, and their sole hit had the traditional double-barreled name, the Sopwith Camel was emphatically not a bubblegum band.  What they were were mid-sixties San Francisco misfits, a little too weird for that scene, who scored a big hit single with a New York producer and broke up so quickly that they barely finished their album.  

Nevertheless, people continue to lazily lump the Sopwith Camel in with the bubblegummers, and not entirely without reason.  Most Kama Sutra acts had hardcore kiddie appeal, and the Camel was no exception.  Their charming, retro songs would go over nicely during kindergarten quiet time.  And like all the best bubblegum bands, they were brought to New York at a producer’s behest, only to have everything go wrong.  If not truly of the genre, we’re willing to peg them as bubblegumesque.

Band leaders Peter Kraemer and Terry MacNeil met in a bookshop in 1966.  Terry was a student at the San Francisco Art Institute, and Peter was from a bohemian Virginia City family—although he’d moved away before the Red Dog Saloon became hepcat-central during the Charlatans’ tenure.  Drummer Norman Mayell had played with Mike Bloomfield and Charlie Musselwhite in Chicago before moving west to hanging out with the Kesey crowd.  Martin Beard was British, seventeen, and the bassist, natch.

Kraemer had been living with Chet Helms in the Haight when the latter was trying to launch a new group.  Names were bandied about, and Kraemer’s suggestion was mocked for being “trite and dumb”—so Helms’ group became Big Brother and the Holding Company (sheesh) and Kraemer remembered Sopwith Camel when he formed his own band.

Things started happening for the Camel once occasional bassist Bobby Collins sent a demo tape including “Hello, Hello” to Lovin’ Spoonful producer Erik Jacobsen.  Jacobsen—a visionary who had left his bluegrass band after hearing the Beatles, and who collaborated with John Sebastian to forge a distinctly American brand of folk’n’ roll —smelled a hit with this light-hearted, retro ditty, and invited the group out to New York.  They signed with Kama Sutra, making them one of the earliest SF bands with a record deal.  They’d never quite fit in with the other San Francisco bands, and “selling out” to an East Coast producer ensured that this remained the case.  Nonetheless, the Victor Moscoso cover art on their album was one of the first instances of mass exposure for an underground cartoonist from the SF scene.

Sure enough, “Hello, Hello” made the Top 10.  Their album, recorded as the group was disintegrating in unfriendly Manhattan, is a delightful old-timey idyll mixing moments of whimsy with some nifty oddball rock’n’roll.  Kraemer’s flapper vocal stylings and romantic lyrics are well-served by the organ grinding band.  You can see why Jacobsen liked them—they’re much closer to the Spoonful in their sense of play and wit than to any of the super-serious Bay Area bands.  After recording a couple of Levis ads, the band split up.  They reformed around 1971, prompted by Burger King’s use of “Hello, Hello” as a commercial jingle, and went on to record one well-reviewed space-rock LP with Jacobsen, The Miraculous Hump Returns from the Moon (Reprise, 1973).